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Report Indicates Ex-VW CEO Played Central Role In Dieselgate

A new report circulated on Sunday that Martin Winterkorn, former chief executive of Volkswagen, played a central role in the Dieselgate scandal.
Posted: September 25, 2016 - 12:55PM
Author: Marc Stern

In the what did he know and when did he know it department, it now appears that Martin Winterkorn, former chief executive of Volkswagen, not only knew about the Dieselgate scandal, he may have initiated it. The German newspaper Bild Zeitung obtained an internal Volkswagen memo dated July 30, 2015, that shows Winterkorn played the central role in the scandal and an attempted coverup.

”Approval Diesel U.S.A.

The memorandum, entitled “Approval diesel U.S.A.,” covered a meeting that two VW employees were scheduled to have with Dr. Alberto Ayala of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The meeting was for “an unofficial information exchange.” The memo went on to discuss the strategy for the meeting. The note indicated that issues with VW diesel engines should only be “partially disclosed.” It continued that this “approach has been confirmed by Prof. Winterkorn on July 28, 2015.”

Winterkorn’s early knowledge of Dieselgate is also apparent from a report on a meeting of a Volkswagen internal damage control board, the “Schadensticsch.” The board is staffed by experts from various departments within the carmaker. At the meeting, Winterkorn reportedly asked: “Are we talking about CO2?” He was told: “No, its nitrous oxide.” Bild went on to say that at the “Latest on that day, Winterkorn supposedly knew all. This was seven weeks before U.S. environmental agencies went public with Dieselgate, which led to the unprecedented crash of Volkswagen shares.”

Meantime, the Bild article follows reports in the last week of the frenetic activity that has been going on at German courts as lawsuits have inundated them. Bloomberg said that “fax machines overheated” as law firms rushed to beat the one-year statute of limitations on suits regarding violations of the “ad-hoc” rule that requires the timely release information that could have a significant impact on a firm’s shares.

Huge Numbers Of Complaints

One law firm reportedly delivered more than 5,000 complaints by truck. The lawsuits filed in Dieselgate’s financial wake are seeking nearly $12 billion in damages.

The Dieselgate scandal has taken on a life of its own since July 8, 2015. That was the day CARB told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and VW that there were significant problems with emissions tests on diesel cars. The problems centered on the huge discrepancies between real-world emissions from diesel VWs and those measured in tests taken by CARB’s rolling lab. Mashable, reporting on the issue, said: “VW offered up excuses for the inconsistency in tailpipe NOx levels, but the EPA wasn’t buying it.”


Hart Ed (not verified)    September 25, 2016 - 5:20PM

Got 'em! And they really deserve to be caught. More will no doubt follow.

For years, many US automotive engineers have questioned how it would be possible to make a Diesel engine that was truly clean. Now we know that the only way to come close is to go with the selective catalyst approach, using ammonia injection. IMNSHO, this is only feasible because emission standards only measure HC, CO, NOX and rules were written to control ammonia, because who would have ever guessed that we would be dumping ammonia into the exhaust stream!

In a bizarre, related story, we learn this week that one European Diesel carmaker has been cheating by shutting off the ammonia injection at high speeds, because otherwise the car would be emitting "poisonous ammonia gas" into the atmosphere!

Fahr Sicher (not verified)    September 27, 2016 - 6:03PM

So Winterkorn knew about the issue in July of 2015 but this article and the bird-cage liner you read it in make it look like he was involved from the beginning... some nine YEARS earlier.... Of course he was told about it as the conversations with the folks at VW's Oxnard, CA emissions lab tried to pull the wool over the CARB's eyes wasn't working out as well as the (mostly American) engineers had hoped. The risk and exposure was building and someone had to bring management into the tent. But to suggest that this is silver bullet evidence that Dr. W was aware of what a few idiot engineers decided to do a decade earlier is rubbish.

Marc Stern    September 27, 2016 - 9:08PM

Follow the timeline, my friend Winterkorn became CEO of VW in 2006, the same year that the whole plot began to grow. Yes, I think there is a smoking gun somewhere in there that shows that someone from the top shielded things. That's the only way it could have happened. I have been involved in various firms for more than a few years at various levels and to suggest that line engineers and low-level managers could keep a scam like this from going all the way to the top and not have it quashed, especially if it harmed the company, is to suggest that perhaps you had better look at your own thinking. This whole issue has its roots in the day they rejected catalytic exhaust doping and decided to use a lean burn/reburn type technology. It didn't work in 1975 or 1980 or 1990 because you cannot get the heat levels that high unless you use some sort of catalyst. By merely shunting the exhaust gases back for another burn wasn't going to work but the engineers persisted in their dream and someone supported them. Indeed, it was MW himself who determined that diesel would be the central marketing force in the U.S. market in the years following 2006 which also suggests to me that he not only knew of the scam way back but perpetuated and protected it until the bottom fell out in 2015.

He tried to distance himself but it was too late when he did and he ended up one of the first to go due to Dieselgate.

Yes I admit it is also circumstantial and based on inductive, rather than deductive reasoning, but, that doesn't mean it isn't right.